find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Justice threatened by SA criminal trial laws

Justice threatened by SA criminal trial laws

Fundamental principles of Australia's justice system may be under threat if proposed legislative changes relating to criminal trials for serious offences are adopted, facets of the South…

Fundamental principles of Australia's justice system may be under threat if proposed legislative changes relating to criminal trials for serious offences are adopted, facets of the South Australian legal community have said today.

President of the South Australian Bar Association (SABA), Malcolm Blue QC, called for clarification of the legislative changes proposed under the Rann Government's recently released Serious Crime Policy 2010.

"It is very important that the intent of this proposal be clarified and understood ... so that the electorate is fully informed about the effect of the proposed legislation," he said in a statement released Monday.

Under the policy, prosecutors would be able to present to a jury evidence of an accused's past offences when "relevant" and "in the interests of justice".

However, a lack of preliminary detail within the policy means it is unclear whether this would result in any substantive deviation from the current law, and until further details are outlined, it is difficult to ascertain potential consequences.

Blue is concerned, however, that Australia's justice system could be undermined, especially if juries were presented with information regarding an accused's past offences for the purposes of determining guilt relating to a new offence.

"Such a proposal ... would have far-reaching consequences in changing the fundamental basis of our system of justice, namely the presumption of innocence and the principles that evidence upon which a conviction rests must actually and sufficiently prove the guilt of the accused," he said.

"The existing common law proceeds on the basis that it is prejudicial ... to conclude that someone is guilty of an alleged offence merely because they committed such an offence before."

The Law Society of South Australia (LSSA) has also voiced concern and has called for the establishment of a law reform body to facilitate public debate and access to information regarding the implications of such changes.

Law Society president Richard Mellows told Lawyers Weekly the LSSA has particular concerns about the integrity of the trial process.

"At the moment, the threshold for [presenting information about prior offences] is very high, for obvious reasons. A jury should be deciding a criminal case on the evidence before it, not on someone's [past behaviour]," he said.

According to Mellows, if the threshold was lowered, the integrity of the trial process would be jeopardised, thus leading to mistrials, re-trials and wrongful convictions. And, as such, a public body in which public debate and information is available is needed.

"We are talking about having a law reform body which is in the public domain, to which the public has access, and to which they can make submissions [so] that everyone understands the impacts, not just the Government ... not just a select few," Mellows said.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Justice threatened by SA criminal trial laws
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Scales of Justice
Oct 19 2017
‘Ego status’ compelled ex-lawyer to defraud $2.97m, court told
Debarred lawyer John Gordon Bradfield told an NSW District Court that he was driven by “ego status...
Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA), Queensland’s new industrial manslaughter legislation,
Oct 19 2017
ALA welcomes ‘tough’ Qld manslaughter laws
The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) has welcomed Queensland’s new industrial manslaughter legisl...
Legal podcasts, tune in, microphone
Oct 19 2017
Legal podcasts you have to tune in to right now
The rise of the internet has hailed in a new dawn for storytelling. Here’s our top pick of podcast...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...